54 North Orange Ave
Orlando, FL, 32801
This event is 18 and over
"...wistful singer-songwriter fare..."
--David Swanson, ROLLING STONE
"...his tenor voice makes even the saddest lyrics easy on the ear."
--Fred A. Bernstein, THE NEW YORK TIMES
"the kind of indie folk that makes you feel warm and fuzzy while tearing out your insides"
Louis Peitzman, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
"Brannan's star is on the ascent."
--James Reed, THE BOSTON GLOBE
"not for the faint of heart...but perfect for the brokenhearted"
--Alex Baldinger, THE WASHINGTON POST
"His voice is completely distinctive and new. Perhaps if Nick Drake, Janis Ian and Liz Phair all were
mixed up in a blender you'd get his sound and songwriting skills."
--Matt Budd, THE HUFFINGTON POST
"The Male Joni Mitchell"
--Alex Catarinella, GEN ART PULSE
"Often erroneously billed as a 'sensitive songwriter,' Brannan is more like a roaring, emotional force."
--Julian Hooper, FLAVORPILL
Jay Brannan: A Bio
Everything about Jay Brannan’s young career is improbable. Defying legions of critics both
personal and professional, he has managed to build a shockingly dedicated following in a
very non-traditional way. Urged to stick to society's conventions during his Southern
upbringing, Jay has become a lightning rod for castaways by simply being himself: a
neurotic and inspiring mess.
Jay is a New Yorker by way of Texas and California, with several stops in between. A
(severely) failed Southern Baptist, he moved to L.A. to pursue acting at the turn of the
century. He picked up his first guitar at age 20, just as he put down an alcohol addiction.
This new, healthier dependency took hold, and a few failed attempts at romance later,
Brannan found himself in New York City auditioning for John Cameron Mitchell’s
experimental film Shortbus. Landing the part, he fell into a world of performers who made
him feel comfortable as a creative professional for the first time. “I finally learned to trust
myself as an artist and began to believe that I do have something to contribute, a concept
that had been beaten out of me in just a few years of attempting a career in
Jay’s song “Soda Shop” became the most downloaded track from the movie’s soundtrack
album, released on Conor Obersts’ (“Bright Eyes”) indie label Team Love. He began
performing his music at events surrounding the film, allowing him an international platform
to showcase his music.
A passionate insomniac and self-described internet addict, Jay found himself spending
countless hours each night cultivating his burgeoning online following—a following that
exploded when he posted a 3:00 A.M. laptop performance of “Soda Shop” on YouTube. The
video found itself featured on the website’s homepage and has since been viewed over 1.5
million times. “I was a random guy at home fucking around with his computer, thinking no
one would ever watch the video if I posted it. I guess I was wrong.” He has gone on to post
most of his new songs as they’re written, including his first album’s title track “goddamned,”
inspired by a trip to Israel where Jay had been invited to perform. These now over 125
online videos have amassed in total over 8.5 million views, and their response was what
gave Brannan the confidence to take his musical ambitions full-time.
Jay’s online following was simultaneously taking physical form as he began playing to soldout
crowds in his hometown of New York City. Deciding to try his luck with farther
audiences, his first performances sold out in advance in cities as far flung as London, Paris,
L.A., Toronto, Vancouver, Cape Town and Tel Aviv. Within one year, Jay jumped from
playing small clubs and venues to sold-out Manhattan theatres.
As Jay’s fan base has steadily grown, so has his catalog of musical releases. His bare-bones,
2007 self-released EP Unmastered saw over 30,000 downloads on iTunes. He used the
proceeds in 2008 to fund production of his first full-length album, goddamned, which
debuted at No. 25 on iTunes’ overall albums chart. Brannan’s tenor voice combined with
painfully honest lyrics surrounding taboo subjects caught the attention of critics at such
influential outlets as Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, which
proclaimed that Brannan “makes even the saddest lyrics easy on the ear.” In the Summer
of 2009, Brannan released In Living Cover, a covers album consisting of 7 cover songs
book-ended by 2 originals, which he recorded in a friend’s bedroom-studio in Brooklyn. It
topped the Singer/Songwriter chart on iTunes and reached No. 10 on Billboard’s
While admitting he usually prefers sparse, unadorned music (“I’m not crazy about electric
guitar, and percussion scares the shit out of me”), for his second full-length album of
originals, the singer wanted to add some new instrumental textures to the mix. So he set
his sights on working with Grammy-winning producer David Kahne, whose résumé includes
such notables as Regina Spektor, Paul McCartney, The Bangles, and Lana Del Rey, to name
only a few. Eschewing traditional methods of luring producers, Jay went new-school: “I
stalked him online.”
“David was on the top of my list of dream producers—that Regina Spektor album he did
[Begin to Hope] was one of the best albums of its decade,” says Brannan. “David and I are
a great match creatively. I wanted to experiment with a slightly more produced sound, and
David was able to help me do that in ways that are musically memorable and satisfying, yet
Recorded over nine months, Rob Me Blind showcases Kahne’s thoughtful production
abilities, while maintaining the signature qualities of a Jay Brannan album: brutal honesty,
sharp wit, and sparkling melodies. Lyrically, the album documents the singer through states
of loneliness, anger, rejection, and yearning, while somehow offering a glimpse of hope and
self-acceptance, as in the first single “Greatest Hits,” where the singer discovers his failures
and shortcomings are in some ways his best offerings. Forging across borders both physical
and lingual, “The Spanglish Song” recounts a failed transcontinental romance—in both
English and Spanish.
Brannan is a sharp observer of both the world at large and of his own inner turmoil. He is
equally adept at expressing his frustration for being a minimalist singer/songwriter in a
forceful smoke-and-mirrors industry (“The State of Music”) as he is at storytelling the plight
of a person falling for a close friend whose attraction lies only in the realm of the platonic
(“Beautifully”). The album’s biggest musical departure comes from “La La La,” a multilayered
lap around varying musical genres, from—as Brannan puts it—“a German Biergarten
brass band to gypsy violin to a horror film, like something out of Scream,” even taking a
quick jaunt through Weezer-esque punk and singing an entire chorus with his tongue
sticking out. “It’s supposed to be funny,” he admits.
Perhaps still a quasi-hermit and cyber-geek at heart, Brannan has spent the past few years
touring multiple times around the globe, including the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland,
France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Greece, Brazil,
South Africa, Israel, and Australia. While usually performing alone with guitar, he can
occasionally be found onstage with cello or violin, and maybe even jumping on a piano for a
song or two. Each show is peppered with a healthy amount of commentary, often
expounding on the observations, adventures, and frustrations of his daily life.
“The things I say often get me into trouble,” says the singer, laughing. “The world pretends
to glorify opinions and individuality, but really everyone is so terrified that anything might
exist outside the traditional or the mainstream. I think that’s a big reason why I do what I
do. For some reason, people can tolerate the truth a bit more when it’s put to music.”
25-year-old, Philly-bred singer-songwriter Jesse Ruben freely confides that he's done a bit of "obsessing" over his second album, The Ones That Matter.
Not that such anxiety is evident on the highly accomplished disc, the follow-up to Ruben's self-released 2008 debut, Aiming for Honesty. Adding full-band accompaniment to his lush, soulful pop-rock, Ruben also stretches impressively as a writer on The Ones That Matter, achieving a near-novelistic sense of character and setting on finely hewn tracks like "A Lack of Armor," "Bleeker and Sixth," and "Unbreakable." His relentless attention to detail pays off handsomely.
He makes no apology for meticulously fine-tuning all aspects of his work and presentation. "Every time you create something you have an opportunity to say something new – or at least something honest," he says. "I take that opportunity seriously."
Ruben's expansive and deeply compassionate point of view has resonated strongly with an ever-growing audience, whom the performer has cultivated with virtually nonstop touring and persistent online networking; as a result, he's sold some 5,000 copies of Honesty on his own.
He often receives emotional messages from fans declaring that his songs have crystallized their feelings, commemorated milestones in their lives and even helped repair broken bonds. "One woman wrote to me and said she and her daughter didn't get along, but when she drives the girl to school every day they listen to my music – and it's the only time they don't fight," he marvels. "The songs I wrote in my basement helped her relationship with her daughter. How could I ask for more than that?" Indeed, his compositions have connected so powerfully with listeners that several cover versions have been posted on YouTube.
Such moments of connection helped inspire the title of The Ones That Matter. Ruben had compiled a list of some 80 candidates, but it was in the aftermath of the recording process that he realized what the disc should be called.
"I was on an epic road trip," he remembers of this epiphany. "I realized that as much as this album is about music, it's ultimately a representation of who I am – and all that amounts to is all the incredible people I've surrounded myself with, and the places I've spent time, and the stories and jokes that came out of those experiences with those people. That's when I understood that the only logical name for the album was The Ones That Matter."
Recorded during a record-breaking snowstorm in Charlottesville, Virginia – where producer Chris Keup (Jason Mraz, OAR, Parachute) and partner Stewart Myers (Mraz, Lifehouse, Rachel Yamagata, Mandy Moore) have their studio – the disc afforded Ruben a chance to fully appreciate the devotion of his pals. "I had some of my best friends in the world come down to help me finish the record," he relates. Other players on the disc include drummer Brian Jones (Mraz, Yamagata, Moore); and keyboardist Daniel Clark (Ryan Adams, kd lang, Moore). Meyers handled bass on several tracks.
The profound gratitude Ruben felt upon finishing the album snowballed in the coming days. "I wanted the title of this record to express my thanks to everyone who mattered – not just my friends who worked on the record, but their friends. The people who gave me a couch to crash on, made me dinner, drove me to the train station. Everyone who came to my shows, and walked up to tell me what the songs meant to them. I'm thanking them all with this record."
Ruben's story begins in the heart of a musical family. His father and grandfather were both professional musicians, performing at weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, corporate events and other gatherings in Philadelphia and its environs. Ruben recalls watching in awe as his dad's band rehearsed rock, pop and R&B hits. He began taking piano lessons, but lost interest during his adolescence. "I had told myself I couldn't play guitar because that was my dad's instrument," he notes. "Then I realized how stupid that was." His father bought him a cheap guitar with the promise of a better instrument if he made progress; the guitar felt right in Jesse's hands, and by age 16 he was writing songs.
The artist cites singer-songwriters like Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor as his greatest influences, but also admits a fondness for the standards penned by Cole Porter and the Gershwins. While he's loath to compare himself to his idols, he says he takes courage in their stories. "Paul Simon wasn't always hailed as a genius," he points out. "At first, he was a 20-year-old kid with a guitar who dreamed up these incredibly ambitious songs. Realizing that helped me give myself permission to write what I wanted to write."
He only applied to one college: Berklee College of Music in Boston. His first year there was a struggle, as he plunked out rudimentary solos in guitar classes filled with fusion-shredding virtuosos. But once he was able to focus on songwriting, Ruben blossomed; regular gigging soon followed. "By the time I graduated," he points out, "I was on the road pretty much every weekend."
As a live performer he racked up odd experiences like playing backyard barbecues, singing at a daytime Sweet 16 party, and even serenading a couple of fans on their anniversary (he showed up in their kitchen with his guitar, at the woman's bidding, to surprise her boyfriend). The gigs gradually got bigger, and soon Ruben was paying his rent with engagements across the East Coast – becoming adept at getting around by commuter rail, booking cheap flights, promoting his shows and maintaining contact with fans via Facebook, his blog and the comments on his YouTube video posts.
The online community also came in handy when he was recording his debut album. "I had no money, and five of my friends held a Facebook fundraiser for me," he reports. "They presented me with a giant check for $2,500 on my twenty-first birthday." And though elements of this initial effort seem distant to him now, Ruben credits Honesty with giving him a leg up in building his audience; in addition to the brisk sales of his debut, he continues to enjoy rapturous fan feedback about its songs.
Upon graduating from Berklee in 2008, Ruben was already living out of a suitcase in his battle-tested Toyota. "If I had my choice, I'd be touring all the time," he volunteers. "I love the lifestyle – sleeping late and getting up and driving and playing and meeting a bunch of people and doing the same thing the next day. I love not having to worry about cleaning my room or doing dishes; I'm cool with living out of a suitcase; I'm just working toward the day when I can trade the Greyhound for a bus of my own."
"I'm staying out of New York for a while," Ruben sings in "A Lack of Armor," although that self-imposed exile may soon be coming to an end, as the singer-songwriter plans a move to the Empire State from his temporary base in Nashville. But for the time being, Ruben's true home is the road – where he'll no doubt continue to touch lives, have offbeat adventures and add new names to the ever-growing list of The Ones That Matter.
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